Employers have a duty of care to their staff and must take active measures to ensure their health and safety in the work environment. Now, this duty of care also means taking reasonable steps to protect workers and others from coronavirus, including supplying face masks and providing handwashing facilities or hand sanitiser. 

However, when providing staff with face masks, employers also have a duty of care to ensure they are suitable and sufficient. As such, it is vital to choose the right mask.

We recently sent reusable medical silicone masks with replaceable FFP2 filters to EC Electronics — a leading UK electronics manufacturing services provider — for use on the factory floor. 

Increasing concerns

On deciding to try the masks and filters for the workforce, group managing director, Phil Simmonds comments: ‘The nature of what we do at EC Electronics means that we have been open for business as (almost) usual throughout the pandemic. Although those team members who can work from home are doing so, many of our staff working on the manufacturing line have been continuing to work at our facilities.

Warehouse‘Keeping our employees safe and comfortable is our number one priority, and we have all the necessary COVID measures in place. However, we were growing increasingly concerned about the amount of waste involved in protecting our staff. 

‘Disposable masks need to be replaced frequently — every four hours at a minimum and sometimes more often in a manufacturing environment when you are constantly touching different surfaces. We are incredibly passionate about sustainability at EC, so this did not sit right with us. 

‘Equally, we did not feel the alternative of reusable cloth masks offered our team enough protection. Although better for the environment, cloth masks are not nearly as effective —particularly if they are not washed frequently. As a business, this presents a whole host of other issues. We, therefore, realised that we needed to find a more effective and sustainable solution’.

Put to the test

Office manager, Sue Berry, wore one of the masks herself and managed the trial with the team. She comments: ‘Our team on the production line preferred the fit and feel of the WaivLength mask compared to disposable masks, and others said they would continue to wear the mask in place of their own cloth mask. The flexibility of the straps was also a key benefit, with staff liking that they could easily adjust the mask to make it sit comfortably (without catching for those with longer hair). 

‘Due to the way the mask looks and feels in terms of comfort and safety, we thought it was an ideal solution for an office or manufacturing environment and that it lends itself well to the culture in those environments. The mask also shows dirt easily, which, although it might sound like a bad thing, is actually beneficial as it means you can easily see if it needs cleaning.

Increased confidence, greater awareness

Sue continues: ‘Overall, the masks gave people more confidence in the level of protection compared to the disposable or cloth masks, especially when they had to have face-to-face contact with external suppliers’.

Phil added: ‘It feels great not to have so much waste on a daily basis and to have more control and awareness of what people are disposing of. From a business perspective, it is also great that WaivLength’s solution works out cheaper, even with the filters, than disposable masks. We will be keeping the masks to use on our production line and ordering some more filters when needed!’